|A migrating Hairy-Kneed Vole-Warbler takes a rest in the branches of Owl Wood|
Well, we're a couple of days into winter (astronomical winter: solstice to vernal equinox) and the Human world in England is separating into In here and Out there, with heavy oak doors, solid black iron bolts, hand-made brick and small, thick, greenish, misted-up window panes marking the skirmish line twixt season and seasonal. The draught-excluder snake is frozen on one side and roasted on the other. We probaby shouldn't have used a real snake, I suppose.
England at large has largely foregone the browns, golds and reds of autumn for shades of grey washed over with thin, muted, battleship-blue (a new colour that I have invented; it's mostly grey but if you squint you can convince yourself that there's a little bit of some cheap blue in there). Mr Sun is a silver-cream stalker hiding behind sheets of overweight, over-stuffed, seven-eighths clouds. The most exuberance that may be hoped for is a flash of deep red at the eastern horizon in the mornings and a fleeting farewell wave of yellow-orange in the west six hours later. In-between, the occasional band of rain is sometimes announced by the light assuming a magnificent butter-white quality and a dairy-wall glow caused by cold sun-rays bouncing through raindrop after raindrop as they form high overhead, ready to fall.
The un-paved ground is sodden and the wind, for the moment, rarely tugs at a scarf or hat, preferring instead to rush from tree-top to tree-top like an unseen express train that never touches ground. Icy temperatures have been withdrawn (no doubt due to council spending cuts) but, for all that, it's still not worth getting any real wildlife out of storage - it's still cold. Even the thick red, green and blue gloss splashes of the tractors in the fields have been parked indoors, out of sight so as not to disturb the greys and battleship-blues and mud-browns.
Occasionally the boney black figure of a parish Parson or Vicar may be seen, silhouetted on the horizon like Frankenstein's creation after the famine, or wafting down the lane like some shadow of the Grim Reaper on a promise. Pages from cold, damp hymnals flutter after him like bats sent from hell, and his hat is permanently pointed downwards, dome and wide brim brandished like a shield between church and real world. If only, he prays, the church could afford better boots and a new coat every year.
England at home is busy creating its own light and colours, banishing the monochrome cold and darkness with burning logs and candles dipped in Christmas magic. Lovely Pagan holly-green and ember-red compete with equally attractive commercial emerald-green and ruby-red, and the shadows box and wrestle with the flickers of yellow and orange from the rustling fireplace and spitting lantern. The air indoors is warm and moist, and feels thrice-breathed and heavy.
Rosy-cheeked, reasonably clean buxom wenches are busy treading great vats of aromatic sage and onion stuffing, and their face-cheeks are quite flushed too. Mulled wine stains every floor purple and the scent of chestnuts, roasting by the kitchen fires, mingles with the farmyard perfume of warm straw falling from the sleeping-lofts. Somewhere over by the cases full of ancient books, a white-haired old fart in a haze of pretty blue smoke taps at a keyboard, typing total rubbish into a "blog". There's sod all on telly that hasn't already been on twice a year since Methusela was in short trousers and the freshly-slaughtered tofu in the fridge is dripping tofu-blood onto the fifteen-bean festive salad on the shelf below. Larder shelves creak under the weight of Aspirin, Rennies and industrial-strength Alka-Seltzer and the gas and electricity meters under the stairs are whizzing around like cartoon dials, signalling the consumption of fossil fuels and derivatives at a rate to shame Sheffield.
In the cooling-fan din of the server room a preternaturally-intelligent and highly-inquisitive spider sits before the wireless router, waving a match-stick limb through the signal and correlating the expletive-screams that follow every interruption. "Power", it thinks to itself, "power - the power is mine; I can disconnect the entire interwebnet with the wave of a leg" and it plots and plans, plans and plots for world domination. Internet up - internet down. Up, down, up, down, eight legs good, two legs bad, up, down, up, down ... ha ha! Connected - not connected - connected - not connected ... evolution simply never equipped the Virgin router against the archnid threat!
Yep - I've finished work for the year and, barring Her Majesty The Britisher Queen needing another official portrait or there being an urgent need to photograph yet another white-chalk outline after a dispute in a supermarket over the last jar of pickled onions, that's it for a while. I have un-hinged my mind and put it back in its little jar of formaldehyde, all under a crocheted tea-cosy to ward off freezing. The Victorian/Edwardian cameras are soaking in a bucket solution of three parts engine oil to four parts claret with just a dash of bitters. The pith helmet has been collected by Lock & Co and will be returned in the new year, freshly shot-peened and sporting twelve coats of tennis-shoe Empire White. My shutter-trigger finger has been unscrewed, splinted, bandaged and is in the refrigeratrix under cling-film, sitting on a petri-dish of rejuvenating agar-agar. My footsies are roasting on a fresh young dog by the Aga (still attached to the rest of me; I haven't soaked this year's socks off yet so can't reach the ankle-bolts). My left hand is in the position that should signify to the damned Butler that porter wine is required. If the glass and decanter don't appear soon I may have to whip him. A festive whipping of course.
Through the keyhole-frame of my horn-rimmed monocle the headlines in the evening broadsheet edition of The Commonwealth News seem to be leading with the recent Mayan goof:
A goof, I must say, for which I am really rather grateful - at least I didn't have to photograph the end of the world or a scorched and raptured England. Well, I suppose that the Mayans are - were - Johnny Foreigners, so you can't seriously expect any great accuracy.
Life goes on.
And on - where is that bloody Butler? Time for a carol or two, methinks, mayhap I saw Mummy shooting Santa Claus or Oh well, Oh well, the Charley's Angels did say or It'd better be a ruddy silent night (because I want some sleep). What the Dickens should I read I wonder? Oliver Twist & Shout? Great Expectorations? Bleedin' Bleak House? Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ... All through the house everything with any sense was stirring; even the mouse (I don't pay domestic wages for nothing). Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ... Nicholas Knickerlessby? A ruddy Christmas Carol Vorderwoman? Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ...
[... belches and falls asleep, ready for the ghost of Christmas Left, Christmas Right and Christmas Centre to visit with their dire warnings about Sir Patrick Stewart's chuffin' brilliant portrayal of Scrooge. ...]
Just to underline what English weather is like, since I began to write this post we've changed from as described earlier to clear blue sky and sunshine and then back to cloudy and on-the-verge-of-something and now back to clear blue sky and sunshine. Will it truly be the end of the world if it doesn't snow on the 25th? At the very least it'll put the parson's nose out of joint. I say - should there be a parson's nose in a joint?
Merry Christmas Eve-Eve!